The Government of Malaysia should put an immediate stop to funding activities of BFR Institute, a private company that is 51% owned by its PEMANDU CEO, Dato’ Seri Idris Jala

(Update on the 22nd of May, 2016:

My statement referring to Dato’ Sri Idris Jala’s 51% ownership of BFR Institute Sdn Bhd was based on a company search I did on the 25th of February, 2016 (See below). The transfer of Idris Jala’s 51% stake to PEMANDU Corporation was not reflected in the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM)’s accounts as of the 25th of February. I apologise to Idris Jala if I have caused anyone to think that Idris Jala benefitted financially from his then 51% share of BFR Institute which was held in trust which has now been diluted down to 51 shares as per the latest CCM records.)

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 19th of May, 2016

The Government of Malaysia should put an immediate stop to funding activities of BFR Institute, a private company that is 51% owned by its PEMANDU CEO, Dato’ Seri Idris Jala

The BFR Institute[1] (BFR stands for Big Fast Results) organized its first Global Transformation Forum in October 20165.[2] One of the headline speakers invited to speak at this forum was Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Governor of California, and Hollywood actor. In a reply to my parliamentary question dated 16th of May, 2016, it was stated that the government allocated RM10 million to BFR Institute to organize this forum. (See attachment below)

Under normal circumstances, I would already be sceptical of the government spending RM10 million to organize a single forum especially given the high speaker fees which some of these celebrities charge. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger charges an estimated US200,000 per speaking engagement, not inclusive of air and other travel expenses.[3] I am even more sceptical of the long term benefits to Malaysia for spending this exorbitant amount of money for a 3 day forum.

However, what is totally unacceptable is the fact that BFR Institute Sdn Bhd is 51% owned by none other than the PEMANDU CEO, Dato Seri Idris Jala, who is also the Managing Director of BFR Institute (The other 49% is owned by PEMANDU Corp. See attachment below). There has been much speculation that PEMANDU will be significantly downsized in the near future and that Idris Jala will transition into a new role, most probably via the BFR Institute. In fact, many PEMANDU staff have been sent overseas to places like Tanzania to help governments ‘deliver’ the big fast results which were seemingly so successfully implement in Malaysia.[4]

While Idris Jala is free to utilize his experience as PEMANDU CEO to sell his services via BFR Institute to whomever he chooses, including foreign governments and to profit from the provision of these services, the Malaysian government should not play any role in funding a private company that is majority owned and controlled by a private individual, namely Idris Jala. While Idris Jala and the government of Malaysia may try to ‘spin’ the activities of BFR Institute as part and parcel of our country’s overseas ‘outreach’ to developing countries, it should be obvious that this is ethically indefensible.

The Clinton Foundation, for example, has and is facing criticism and public scrutiny over allegations that government funding had been channelled to pay its staff salaries[5] and for receiving grants from the State Department when Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state.[6]

As a man of principle and integrity, I am surprised that Idris Jala was comfortable with this funding arrangement especially since he has been in the forefront in promoting transparency and accountability.

I call upon the Government of Malaysia to put an immediate stop to funding the activities of BFR Institute and for PEMANDU Corp to divest its 49% interest in BFR Institute so that any conflicts of interest between the government and the activities of BFR Institute as a private entity can be avoided.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang


1) Parliamentary Answer on BFR Institute

2) (SSM) BFR Institute Company Profile